GOP gains momentum on tax cuts

GOP gains momentum on tax cuts
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans have significant momentum ahead of a possible vote this week on tax legislation following a meeting of their caucus with President Trump.

Trump has made clear he’s willing to deal with senators on their individual demands, and his offerings paid quick dividends Tuesday.

Within an hour of the Trump meeting, the Senate Budget Committee voted to advance the tax bill on a party-line vote.

Two Republicans who just a day prior had threatened to vote against the measure, Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Defense: Trump at G-20 | Calls Ukraine 'sole reason' for canceling Putin meeting | Senate passes resolution condemning Russian actions | Armed Services chairmen warn against defense cuts Senate passes resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine Overnight Defense: Trump faces new Russia test over Ukraine | Cancels plans to meet Putin at G-20 | Officials float threat of military action against Iran MORE (Wis.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerUS-Saudi relationship enters uncharted territory Senate edges closer to rebuking Trump on Saudi Arabia Saudi crown prince's brother returns to US MORE (Tenn.), voted in favor of it.


Separately, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Judd Gregg: The last woman standing MORE (Maine), long seen as the Republican most likely to vote against the tax bill, suggested that she could be won over after Trump voiced support for two bills, including a measure sponsored by her, that are meant to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets.

Passage of those measures could persuade Collins, who is worried the tax bill’s inclusion of language eliminating ObamaCare’s insurance mandate could raise premiums.

“[Trump] said that he understood the need to have something to offset the premium increases and appeared very open” to signing the two bills into law, she said after a separate meeting with Trump.

Collins said her optimism on the bill is growing because of the feedback she’s received about her concerns on health care and other issues.

“I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I’m going to be given the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor on these areas,” she said after the lunch. 

Collins also made it clear that GOP leaders and members of the Senate Finance Committee are focused on winning her over.

“I think they’re eager to help me get to yes,” a smiling Collins told reporters.

The positive signals bode well for GOP hopes to pass the bill on the Senate floor by the end of the week.

“I think it’s going to pass,” said Trump, who called the meeting “outstanding.”

Republicans can afford just two defections if all Democrats vote against the bill, but it appeared Tuesday they were nearing their goal.

Corker and other deficit hawks — such as Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTim Scott: Stop giving court picks with 'questionable track records on race' a Senate vote Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller CNN to partner with The Des Moines Register on polling ahead of 2020 Iowa caucuses MORE (R-Ariz.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley: Huawei executive facing possible US fraud charges | Dem blames White House for failure of election security bill | FCC investigating wireless carriers over coverage data | Assange rejects deal to leave embassy Warner blames White House for election security bill not passing Congress Hillicon Valley: Rosenstein urges tech to step up against disinformation | Experts see hackers turning to A.I. | White House to host tech summit | How Yemen's civil war is playing out online | Far-right activist handcuffs herself to Twitter office MORE (R-Okla.) — have been concerned that the bill could blow a hole in the deficit. They have been pushing for the bill to include a “backstop” in the event that the tax cuts don’t generate as much economic growth as predicted by Republicans.

Corker on Tuesday said he and leadership have an “outline of an agreement” on a trigger provision that could allow tax rates to rise if budget projections are missed.

“I think we’ve got a commitment that puts us in a pretty good place,” he told reporters.

Johnson, along with Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesOvernight Health Care: Senators urge vote on delaying health insurance tax | Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can back 'Medicare for all' bill | Latest Ebola outbreak becomes world's 2nd-worst Overnight Defense: Senate rebukes Trump with Yemen vote | Mattis, Pompeo briefing fails to quell Senate concerns with Saudis | Graham demands CIA briefing on Khashoggi | Pentagon identifies three troops killed in Afghanistan Senate GOP presses Trump to move on new NAFTA deal before Dems take over House MORE (R-Mont.), has expressed concerns that the bill provides more of a benefit to corporations than pass-through businesses, which are taxed through the individual code. On Monday, Johnson threatened to vote against the bill in the Budget Committee if a fix wasn’t reached before the vote.

The Wisconsin Republican ended up voting for the bill in committee, telling reporters shortly before the vote that he’s seeing progress.

Daines also was confidant that concerns on pass-through businesses would be dealt with.

“I think we made a lot of progress today and I’m optimistic that we’re going to see a good outcome there,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

Collins also said she received positive feedback about including a property tax deduction of up to $10,000 in the bill. The House tax bill includes such a property tax deduction but the Senate bill does not.

“That’s a really important provision for a lot of middle-income families,” she said.

Collins said Trump would support her amendment on the property tax deduction.

Despite the progress, Republicans still have more work to do before the bill passes the Senate. They have to address lawmakers’ concerns without having the bill’s cost exceed $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

“It’s a challenging exercise,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Sunday shows preview: Trade talks, Cohen sentencing memo take center stage Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform MORE (R-Ky.) said. “Think of sitting there with a Rubik’s Cube, trying to get to 50. We do have a few members who have concerns, and we’re trying to address them. And we know we will not be able to go forward until we’re able to get 50 people satisfied and that’s what we’re working on.”

At least one manager’s amendment is expected to be offered by GOP leaders, and individual lawmakers are also expected to offer their own amendments on the floor.

Once Senate Republicans pass their bill, they still have to reconcile it with the measure the House passed earlier this month.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyBroad coalition urges Congress not to renew expiring tax breaks The lame duck Congress has four opportunities to help Puerto Rico before it goes home Economy adds 155K jobs in November, unemployment holds at 3.7 percent MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday maintained that lawmakers would resolve the differences between the two bills in a conference committee, rather than the House taking up a Senate-passed bill. Among the bills’ differences is that the House bill has four individual tax brackets while the Senate bill has seven.

“Certainly there is a lot of common ground here,” he said. “But the chambers have taken different approaches in areas such as pass-throughs, on the individual rate brackets, for example, in deductions issues. And we certainly have a lot of work together with the Senate to do on the international side of this. And so for as much common ground as we have, there are some areas where we’re taking different approaches. That will be worked out — can only be worked out — in a conference committee.”

Nathaniel Weixel, Jordain Carney and Cristina Marcos contributed.